Monthly Archives: October 2014

Government sues Honeywell over wellness program

Posted by Adam Johnsen on October 31, 2014
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The Minneapolis Star Tribune

October 29, 2014

Article by: DEE DEPASS , Star Tribune

Federal officials are challenging new benefit rules at Honeywell Inc. that create monetary penalties unless employees and spouses take medical tests.

A lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in response to complaints from two Minnesota employees sets up a potential court case over how far employers can go to shift health costs and influence worker behavior. Honeywell is a major employer in the Kansas City area.

The agency said in the suit, filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis, that new health screening and penalties at Honeywell violate the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act.

“Employees will be penalized if they or their spouses do not take the biometric tests,” the complaint said.

In response to the suit, Honeywell said its screening program is designed to encourage employees to live more healthfully and thereby create lower health care costs for themselves and the company. The company said the program complies with health care-related laws, including the Affordable Care Act.

The EEOC has requested a temporary injunction to stop the employee testing, which was scheduled to begin last week at various sites across the country.

Like other companies, New Jersey-based Honeywell embraced the so-called wellness movement to prod employees into better shape and to lower health care-related costs.

The EEOC said that Honeywell’s new program creates up to $4,000 in penalties for employees unless they and their spouses take blood and medical tests that can identify smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity and other health problems. They include the loss of $1,500 in company contributions to health savings accounts, a $500 medical plan surcharge, a $1,000 tobacco surcharge and a $1,000 spousal tobacco surcharge.

The suit is the third one in three months that the EEOC has filed accusing companies of setting up “involuntary” employee medical or wellness programs, said Laurie Vasichek, an attorney for the agency. Honeywell’s tests and threatened penalties go too far because they are not job-related and are not consistent with any business necessity, she said.

“The thing that is important about these cases is not that they are wellness or health programs, but that the company is requiring testing and asking disability questions when it’s not job-related,” Vasichek said. “They can only do that in situations where it’s voluntary for the employee to answer.”

According to the lawsuit, Honeywell announced the new biometric testing program in August and September. The agency received complaints and subsequently asked the company to drop penalties for employees who don’t submit to the tests. Honeywell didn’t agree to that, according to the suit.

In a statement, Honeywell denied any wrongdoing and said the screening and wellness program “are in strict compliance with both HIPAA and the Affordable Care Act’s guidelines.”

The company also said, “The Chicago EEOC office is unfamiliar with the details of our wellness programs and woefully out of step with the health care marketplace and with the core intent of the ACA to provide expanded access and improved health care to all Americans. The incentives in our wellness programs are pro consumer and have delivered demonstrably better health care outcomes for employees and their families.”


Op-Ed: “Communication technology opens ‘doors’ for everyone, not only people with disabilities”

Posted by Adam Johnsen on October 20, 2014
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The Hill
October 13, 2014

Communication technology opens ‘doors’ for everyone, not only people with disabilities

By John D. Kemp and Brandon M. Macsata

Today, most Americans overlook improvements made since the dawn of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) in 1990. Sidewalk ramps…automatic door openers…adjustable vanity mirrors…and automatic lighting and fixture controls were all designed to help make the “physical” world more accessible for and useable by all people, including individuals with disabilities. Now, isn’t it time we opened doors to the “virtual” world, and information and communication technology (“ICT”)?

Since 1998, federal agencies have been required by law to make their electronic ICT accessible to people with disabilities. Better known as “Section 508” (of the Rehabilitation Act), it mandates “individuals with disabilities who are Federal employees to have access to and use of information and data that is comparable to the access to and use of the information and data by Federal employees who are not individuals with disabilities.” [1]

Accessible ICT is an evolving process, evidenced by the United States Access Board, which monitors Section 508 compliance, updating its standards, as well as other telecommunications accessibility guidelines. The House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman, Darrell Issa, has introduced legislation calling for the designation of the Chief Information Officers (CIOs) in all federal Departments, including significant changes to the management of information technology. This legislation passed the House of Representatives by voice vote, with similar legislation pending in the Senate.

Congress is currently faced with countless legislative proposals focusing on IT, ranging from healthcare, Veterans benefits, telecommunications and education, to name a few. But more needs to be done in both the public and private sectors. Wall Street and Main Street are both being re-defined by technology. The potential for our emerging “digital economy” is endless, if that technology is made more accessible. Consider this: CTIA recently reported that the mobile data traffic more than doubled last year! [2] We know that people with disabilities are yearning to leverage accessible technologies in their everyday lives. Whereas there have been many improvement in accessibility features on smart phones and mobiles devices, there is a still a long way to go. A recent report, authored by Nirmita Narasimhan, Program Manager at the Centre for Internet and Society (CIS), and Axel Leblois, founder and Executive Director of G3ict, summarized the challenge:

“Senior citizens and people with physical or mental disabilities are often unable to access mobile phones because the equipment lacks the necessary accessibility features or because the price of the adapted phones and services remain unaffordable. Considering that 15 per cent of the world’s population, or over one billion people, have a disability that affects their access to modern communications, the commercial opportunities for mobile service providers, manufacturers and smart phone application developers are consequently substantial.” With so much of our daily lives dependent on mobile devices and the Internet, it is time that we ushered in an “accessible technology renaissance.”[3]

Aside from being the “socially responsible” thing to do, it also makes good business sense! In the first quarter of 2013, e-commerce expenditures reached 50.18 billion U.S. dollars.[4] Worldwide, it is estimated that the total value of e-commerce revenue topped $1.2 trillion in U.S. dollars.[5]

Maybe the more pertinent question to ask is, “How can we NOT afford to make ICT more accessible for people with disabilities?”

Ironically, despite its increasing relevance in our everyday lives, the World Wide Web is largely inaccessible for people with disabilities. Many websites are lacking “ALT Tags,” which are designed to help screen readers used by people who are blind or visually impaired identify and explain images, graphs and charts. Yet, missing ALT Tags are only the tip of the iceberg.

Last year, Walmart had over 59 million unique monthly visitors to its websites. As large as that number may seem, it pales in comparison to Amazon and Ebay, with 149 million and 91 million monthly unique visitors, respectively.[6] These companies, and many more – such as Deque, IBM and Microsoft – are investing in accessible ICT because they understand its inherent business and social value.

Ironically, just as people without disabilities benefit from physical accessibility improvements, they are already benefitting from accessible ICT. According to the UK Office of Communications (Ofcom), 80 percent of people using closed captions are not deaf or hard of hearing.[7]

What is accessible technology renaissance? It is one whereby we envision every single individual, regardless of disability, can fully access the modern marvels of technology. Technology is what drives our economy. Technology is what links our communities. Technology is what keeps us connected to the world around us. That is why it should be accessible to everyone.

[1] Section 508 Of The Rehabilitation Act. Section508.gov

[2] Mobile Data Traffic More Than Doubled Last Year, According to CTIA. Roll Call TechnoCRAT. June 17, 2014.

[3] Making mobile phones and services accessible for persons with disabilities. A joint report of ITU – The International Telecommunication Union and G3ict – The global initiative for inclusive ICTs. August 2012.

[4] Statistics 2013. E-Commerce Revenues. September 20, 2013.

[5] Statistics 2013. E-Commerce Revenues. September 20, 2013.

[6] Statistics 2013, E-Commerce Revenues, September 20, 2013.

[7] Did You Know? 80 Percent of People Who Use Closed Captions Are Not Hard of Hearing. CaptionsforYouTube. June 6, 2014.

Kemp is president and CEO of The Viscardi Center, and Macsata is general consultant of the National Business and Disability Council (NBDC) at The Viscardi Center.


MSCOD monthly update on the 25th ADA Anniversary Celebration.

Posted by Adam Johnsen on October 13, 2014
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Here is your October 2014 edition of the MSCOD monthly update on the 25th ADA Anniversary Celebration.


The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) turns 25 years old on July 26, 2015. The Minnesota State Council on Disability (MSCOD) is planning a number of activities leading up to and marking this historic day.

The MSCOD ADA 25 year Anniversary Legacy Project seeks to preserve and raise awareness of Minnesota’s role in the development of the ADA as well as celebrate Minnesota’s disability cultures in tandem with the 25 year anniversary of the passage of the ADA.

For more information about the Legacy Fund visit

MSCOD’s Legacy Funds are administered by the Minnesota Humanities Center. Learn more about the Minnesota Humanities Center at


Were you or your organization instrumental in the passing of the ADA? How has the ADA positively impacted your life? We want to hear your stories!

To tell us your story, or to let us know how you plan to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the ADA, contact David Shaw at We hope to hear from you!


In honor of the 25th anniversary of the ADA, MSCOD is sponsoring a poster contest and a video contest to capture what the ADA means to people around the state of Minnesota.

Posters and videos submitted should creatively address the following question: “How has the ADA impacted society in general or your life in particular?”

Categories for Participation:

·        Students in grades K-4

·        Students in grades 5-8

·        Students in grades 9-12

·        Students in post-secondary education

·        Adults – Professional

·        Adults – Other

Learn more about the 25th Anniversary ADA Poster and Video Contests!


The ADA Legacy Tour kicked off in July, traveling across the country raising awareness for next year’s 25th Anniversary of the ADA!

The tour stopped at St. Paul on August 6-7, and was hosted by the Minnesota Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities. For a full list of tour dates and more details on the tour, visit the ADA Legacy Tour page.


·        Seeking national speakers for an ADA Policy Conference on July 9th, 2015

·        Finalizing details for the July 26th, 2015 ADA 25th Anniversary Celebration at the Minnesota History Center

·        Conducting the ADA survey

·        Creating an historical documentary with TPT about Minnesota’s implementation of the ADA

·        Poster and video contests



Please support our exciting projects as they develop. Volunteer with one of our committees and help plan our celebrations and other activities. Committees meet monthly. Please contact Andrew Mosca at 651-361-7803 or for more information about how to become involved.

Enjoy your weekend, Minnesota!

Minnesota State Council on Disability

121 E. 7th Place, Suite 107

St. Paul MN 55101

651.361.7800 (V/TTY)

800.945.8913 (V/TTY)

651.296.5935 (Fax)

Your Policy, Training and Technical Resource

MSCOD’s 25th ADA Celebration Facebook Page

MSCOD’s 25th ADA Celebration Twitter Feed

MSCOD’s 25th ADA Celebration Page

DOJ issues New ADA Technical Assistance Publication About Polling Place Access for Voters with Disabilities

Posted by Adam Johnsen on October 13, 2014
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The following information is forwarded to you by the Great Lakes ADA Center ( for your information:

The Justice Department published a new technical assistance publication about polling place access for voters with disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  The publication, “Solutions for Five Common ADA Access Problems at Polling Places,” is intended to provide election officials with solutions for addressing common barriers for physical access to polling places for voters with disabilities.  The publication is available in HTML and PDF versions on